An elixir for normalcy

Today on this January day, my whole soul is in this. Bringing America together. Uniting our people. Uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause.

— Joe Biden, USA’s 46th President

The four-year-long horror show has finally ended.

I stayed up until early Thursday to watch the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris — an event that, I’m certain, was watched by billions across the globe and is both a hallmark and tradition in American history.

Amid the jubilation, there is something about this that is just too ‘normal’.

You see, just two weeks ago, in the same building where 78-year-old Biden placed his left hand on his family Bible and his right stretched out to recite the oath of presidency, an insurrection like none other in the country’s history occurred.

At the time, a violent mob stormed the Capitol in a bid to interrupt an election count to certify Biden’s victory.

In my reaction to the incident, I had described it as not only despicable, but also an attack on the spirit of democracy and ideals upheld by the country, which had been its source of pride all these years.

Former president Donald Trump, viewed to be largely responsible for the Capitol riots a few weeks ago, gave the inauguration a pass — a first since 1869. Instead, he threw himself an elaborate going away party, which was snubbed by most on the guest list, and flew to Florida before the inauguration ceremony started.

Just as the ceremony started, Trump’s final flight on Air Force One as president landed without much fanfare and away from the spotlight.

Instead, in his place at the inauguration was his second-in-command, Vice-President Mike Pence, who did himself no favours by aligning himself with the former president, staying loyal to his boss until the latter unleashed a mob to hunt him during the Capitol incident.

Pence, to give credit where it’s due, stood up as his own man after the insurrection incident, showing up to make a statement, that the norms of the much-changed country are still in place, that the institution and the system works.

Juxtaposed with what happened to the country recently, a change in leadership will just be the start of America’s recovery to return as a beacon of light to the world.

Among his first acts in office, Biden issued a 100-day mask wearing challenge — one that is adopted by most if not all countries by now.

He also signed more than a dozen executive actions, some of which reversed decisions made by Trump.

Several executive actions will make changes to the US’ response to Covid-19 and try to ease some of the financial strain on Americans resulting from the pandemic.

Others include to undo Trump’s actions on the environment, immigration, US census, and regulatory changes, as well as implementing a mask mandate on federal property, increasing support for underserved communities and rejoining the Paris climate accord.

Over the last four years, I admit, I had poked fun at the US for the sheer ridiculousness in its executive branch and the incompetence of its administration.

This was echoed by several of the country’s press, media men, and comedians who seemed to have an endless supply of ‘turd’ or material in the last four years.

As I watch the inauguration, a person on the commentary noted that the event in itself was an ‘elixir’ of some sort from the extremism and divisiveness that marred the country of late, and I couldn’t agree more.

In this column, a few days after the Capitol riots, I had stressed that a country, a good one at least, shouldn’t navigate itself on a path teetering on two ends of extremes — the supremacists and the liberal left.

I also urged that unity is paramount and must be preserved at all times. I also viewed that politics of identity, hate and division must be rejected.

Biden, in his inaugural address and through his own words, realised this and said while the citizens viewed the future with some fear and trepidation, they must face the challenges head on.

“The answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you do, or worship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do.

“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal”.

Best of luck Mr President, and Godspeed.